2023-2024 Catalog

LATN 346 Cognitive Science and Culture: New Encounters with Ancient Rome

This interdisciplinary course, featuring ancient Roman texts in the original Latin, introduces students to the ways in which theories and findings from cognitive science can cast new light on Roman literature, theater, philosophy, law, science, religious practice, and graphic arts. Cognitive science offers explanatory paradigms for everything from the appeal of literary characters, dramatic irony, belief in gods, and animal sacrifice. Distributed cognition, that is, the thesis that cognition is embodied, enactive, embedded, and extended is appealed to for new perspectives on ancient theater, public spectacles, religious ceremonies, craft knowledge, and the production, display, and appreciation of architectural forms, sculpture, and paintings. Findings from the science of memory are brought to bear upon Roman strategies for remembering, for commemorating, and for purposely forgetting. Theories of culture drawn from evolutionary anthropology, developmental psychology, and philosophy of biology are adduced to cast new light on our evidence for Roman forms of participatory rather than instructional pedagogy, in-group / out-group formation, prosocial and altruistic behavior, and mechanisms of cultural change. These topics will be examined through close readings in the original Latin drawn from Cato the Elder, Cicero, Livy, Vitruvius, and others. Permission of instructor required.


5 units


LATN 201

Core Requirements Met

  • Pre-1800
  • Regional Focus